On a daily basis, we talk to companies that are looking to build a new website, design an infographic, or a embark on a complete brand identity refresh. In the end, it’s vital that the right decision be made when selecting a design firm or full service marketing agency to be your partner in this endeavor. So, in order to help you in making the right partner selection, we’ve outlined a few key questions that every company should ask before signing the dotted line.
- Can you explain my business to me in great detail? Your web designer should be a firm that really gets your business. Yes, a great design can be generated if the firm doesn’t completely know what your business is all about. However, you will need to also hire a copywriter or someone that does understand your space in order to complete the project. The best result is a design firm that truly understands your business from the inside out.
- Who are my top competitors and why? When engaging in a website design or brand identity refresh, it’s very important that your design firm can clearly place and position competition in the space. The reason is because it is important to not only be up to par with competitors, but to extend beyond them. Competitive positioning is essential to a company, especially if your company is actively selling and in growth mode. As your sales team is out prospecting, your website visitors need to quickly capture your company’s unique features and compelling value propositions. If your marketing and design firm doesn’t know who your competition is, how can they create something competitive and distinct?
- Based on your experience, please define my buyer personas? This is a biggy and should not be understated. Your buyer personas are the defining point of your existence. You need to have a partner that not only knows who your personas are, but how to cater the messaging and site user experience to their needs and pains. Nearly every element in the website design should be carefully examined to cater to your buyer personas. If not, your website will be speaking a different language.
- What are the key differentiators in my market? In union with clearly understanding the competition, it’s nearly as important to comprehend how to create distinction. Design firms positioned well to grasp your entire sell cycle have a better chance of creating a website that will resonate with your buyer personas. Additionally, key stages in the sell cycle may require that your website convey messaging, copy or content that will set your company apart. If you compete in a red ocean, it’s even more important to find those nuggets of uniqueness that can be put front center in order to capture the attention of new buyers.
- What inbound marketing tactics will my buyers gravitate toward? If your marketing engine is in high gear, it’s very important to have a web design that is fluid and easily modified. Custom code websites are a thing of the past, with the emergence of better and more user-friendly CMS platforms. By using a mainstream CMS, your design can be implemented to enable buyers to download, form fill, engage, comment or ask for help. First, you need to understand your buyer, then you need to give them the tools that will keep them returning. Make sure your designer knows what content and processes will make them become a new client.
- Please send me a writing sample of web copy that you have written within my industry. It’s likely that the designer you’re talking to will laugh and ask you if you are serious. Well, you should be because your new website design will include web copy, navigation and user experience already in planned out. If your designer doesn’t know your business and can’t write copy from the top of their head, then maybe it’s time to find a company that really gets what you do.
- Am I buying a web design framework/theme that is already pre-baked, or is my site going to be a custom design unique only to my business? It is very common to find design firms that use pre-baked wordpress themes or resell design templates that have been used by their other clients. It’s not a bad thing if your website is similar to other companies, but it is important to know this up front so you aren’t surprised at the outcome. A pre-baked design or framework is less expensive, so make sure that you aren’t paying custom prices if that’s what you are seeking. Just ask the question before committing.
- Is the content you write unique to my company, or are you sharing it with other firms like mine? We have found that some firms share content and articles across various websites. We’re not certain that the companies are aware of this, but it’s important to determine if what you are paying for is rightfully yours. To really be a standout company, your copy, messaging and content should be unique and entirely owned by your company. If it’s not (even variations of the same copy), then make sure you are getting a steep discount on the price you pay for content.
- How does a social media strategy effect my business and the direction of my website/brand identity? This one is a footnote type of question, but still needs to be asked. Not every business sees the value from engagement on all of the social media platforms. In fact, the jury is out as to whether there is true value in social media marketing for B2B companies. LinkedIn has a clear line to ROI, but an argument could be made against whether or not Facebook and Twitter are places to be for new business. Some of our clients use social media heavily for candidate marketing and have had success, but to make it work, a well-defined strategy needs to be in place. Your website should be clear about how you utilize social media in your business and how your buyers will engage with you. Make sure that your designer gets how social media plays into your overall marketing strategy.
- Based on my type of business, what is the call-to-action strategy and how is it weaved into my site for best results? Many sites are dead end brochures, with only a one-stop purpose of information gathering. Other sites are built to please and to give compelling reasons to return. To maximize the value of your website to frequent and new visitors, you must map out the call-to-action strategy. Get a clear handle from your designer as to how the workflow of the website will capture your audience and engage them to act. Do you want visitors to do a drive by visit, or come in for a drink and hang out a while?
You might be scratching your head and asking yourself “why are only a few of these questions addressing web and brand design?”. It’s because the elements of design, messaging, web copy and marketing are converging as one entity when looking to rebrand or showcase a business on the web. Design is quickly becoming a sub-category of how marketing is being implemented in the grand scheme of the business strategy. In the past, companies chose design partners purely based on cool factor and spiffyness. However, by choosing a partner on these characteristics alone, a large gap still exists in translating a design to match the buyer persona engagement and content aspects of your business. Maybe in the past, it was neat to start with a slick design that people like and then wrap the messaging foundation around it. However, that’s not cutting it in the current business environment. Web and graphic design is meant to serve a purpose that is captured from the foundation of a company’s brand identity as defined from the needs of your buyer personas.
Make sure to ask these questions when looking for a web design partner. If you don’t get the answers you like, keep looking.